Caesar's Pax Julia, the name given to the town by the Romans, still has an unusually peaceful atmosphere. Beja towers over the surrounding Alentejo plain. Made of stone and lime, protected by walls and defended by the castle keep, it was rebuilt in the fourteenth century from what was left of the Roman fortification.Start by climbing the two-hundred-step winding stairway of the forty-metre-high tower. This is well worth the effort, as you will gain an idea of the beauty of the town and of the immensity of the Alentejo stretching into the distance. Then make your way down to the historical centre and lose yourself among the narrow streets. There are some gems here to discover, such as the mannerist and baroque cathedral, the Church of Santa Maria, the Visigoth museum in the Church of Santo Amaro and the Museu Rainha Dona Leonor in the Convento da Conceição. A fine collection of archaeological items, azulejos and religious art awaits you here. And as you admire the architectural splendour of this convent you”ll be sure to an atmosphere of undying love, such as that experienced by Sister Mariana de Alcoforado, the lovelorn author of the “Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun”. This is the ideal book to read in the placid white surroundings of Beja, perhaps in the Praça da República, which is dominated by the pillory and the Renaissance Church of the Misericórdia and which boasts a fine square of Manueline buildings,. And then why not enjoy a meal in an Alentejo restaurant? For dessert, sample the subtle flavours of the renowned conventual sweets. The castle keep announces from afar the Roman Pax Julia once established at the very centre of this great southern plain. This historical past is revitalised by the contrast with its youthful dynamism. The keep tower is the symbol of a city that only became Portuguese after sustained warring between Christians and Moors. It takes some determination to get up its 100 steps but it is the best place to look out over this ancient layout of houses, patios and gardens set against boundless views out over the golden plain beyond. For fans of two-wheeled forms of transport, the Municipal Council has bikes to rent. It is a great way to discover Roman entranceways, window slats, Gothic arcades and all that makes up this charming city. For a rest, try one of the convent sweets, a very specific dimension to the heritage of Beja. And for very different reasons, make sure you get into the Convent of Conceição. Within, the walls are finished with one of the best national collections of Hispano-Arab tiles cared for by the Rainha D. Leonor Museum. There are also exhibits related to the tragic love story of Soror Mariana for a knight of Chamilly and the moving love letters they wrote, a landmark in European literature. Beja”s past can also be found in the Visigoth capitals of the church of Santo Amaro, in the white buttresses of the church of Santa Maria and the convent of S. Francisco which now includes all the accommodation comforts of its Pousada. Meanwhile, enjoy the best of the present in the special Municipal Library bar or under the lively sixteenth century arcades of the Praça da República square.
|Beja Castle||Catedral of Beja||Convent of Conceição||Roman “Villa” of Pisões|
|Santo Amaro Church||Rainha D. Leonor Regional|